In Lincoln Riley’s first season as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, he led the team to the Rose Bowl where they fell just short of going to the National Championship Game against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.
Tonight, the Sooners finally get to play against Alabama, but they almost didn’t get that chance.
The Sooners are the only team in this season’s College Football Playoff that has actually lost a game. That loss came against Texas, 48-45, in the Red River Shootout in Week 6. That’s not to say they didn’t have any other close calls along the way.
For Bruin fans who may have only watched Oklahoma play UCLA this year, let’s recap a bit.
After thrashing the UCLA defense, Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray went on to win the Heisman Trophy with his performances leading Oklahoma.
But the Sooners are so much more than just their QB. Two weeks after the Sooners thumped the Bruins, they played a relatively low-scoring overtime game against the Army Black Knights. Oklahoma was up 21-14 at the half, but Army tied it up in the third quarter and the game went into OT after a scoreless fourth. Whew!
Then, two weeks later, Texas managed to kick a field goal with just nine seconds left to hand the Sooners their only loss.
Four games later, Bedlam ensued. That’s what they call OU’s game against OSU and, rightfully so, at least this season. The Sooners led 48-41 prior to the Cowboys scoring on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 left. That made it 48-47. The PAT would tie the game and probably send it into overtime, but OSU coach Mike Gundy opted to go for two to try to win the game. The two-point conversion failed and the Sooners escaped another close game.
The Sooners had another close game against West Virginia a few weeks later. The Mountaineers scored with 4:20 to play to make it 59-56, Oklahoma. An onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and West Virginia never got the ball back.
By comparison, Alabama had gone relatively untested prior to the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. In their first twelve games, the Crimson Tide’s closest game was a 22-point win over Texas A&M.
But, in the SEC Championship, the Tide were down 28-14 after Jake Fromm threw his third TD pass of the game with 12:39 to go in the third quarter. It took three consecutive touchdowns by Alabama, including two from Jalen Hurts who had lost the starting QB job to Tua Tagavailoa during last year’s National Championship Game against Georgia. Hurts came into the game after Tagavailoa injured his ankle in this one and led the Tide to the win and tonight’s game.
Who will start at QB for the Tide tonight? It would seem like Hurts will probably get the nod as Tagavailoa is still recovering from his injury, but don’t rule Tua out completely. Nick Saban does have a tendency to surprise you, after all.
Personally, I think the fact that the Sooners have played in a bunch of close games helps them and will give them the resiliency that they will need to beat Alabama tonight.
Who do you think wins this one? Leave it in the comments below and join your fellow Bruins discussing this game.
This is your College Football Playoff Semifinal Orange Bowl Game open thread.